We all know that when it comes to men and women, differences abound.
I'm sure you can create a list of facts to back that up.
But when it comes to men's and women's health, one difference is troubling: Women outlive men, and that gap is widening, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). On average, women outlive men by more than five years.
Men also die at higher rates from most of the top 10 causes of death, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, flu/pneumonia, kidney disease, accidents, and suicides. And, they die at higher rates in general, reports the Men's Health Network (MHN).
Although many major health inroads have been made in the past hundred years—and continue to be made—the gender gap has persisted.
Some possible reasons contributing to this trend? Smoking, diet, lack of exercise, alcohol and substance abuse, and a lack of routine medical care. Societal factors, like aggression and violence, risky behavior, work and life stress and the ensuing lack of proper social support (or hesitation to reach out for help) can make men even more vulnerable to illness.
It's obvious that what all this means is that men need to pay attention to their health. Rather than ignore, procrastinate, deny and defend, they need to face health issues head-on.
Because women often take charge of the health of their families, you may want to make sure the men you love are taking care of their health.
Jean Bonhomme, MD, MPH, and an MHN board member, says the diseases that affect men are the result of lack of health care monitoring earlier in life. Remember, many diseases, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, have no symptoms, so it's especially important to stick to a regular schedule of wellness visits.
Awareness, early screenings, adopting healthy habits with good nutrition and exercise all go a long way toward narrowing the ever-widening health gender gap.
June is a good time to be reminded of this, because it's Men's Health Month. Men can take the opportunity to learn the biggest threats to their health and take steps toward a better, healthier life.
- Heart disease
It's the leading cause of death for U.S. men, responsible for one in every four male deaths. Between 70 percent and 89 percent of sudden cardiac events occur in men, reports the CDC.
- Skin cancer
This cancer joins heart disease as the top two leading causes of death for men of all races—and it's largely preventable with proper skin care and regular checkups. More men than women die of melanoma, affecting one in 28 white men and one in 44 white women.
This is the fifth leading cause of death for U.S. men; it kills about the same number each year as prostate cancer and Alzheimer's disease combined. Men have strokes at younger ages than do women.
- Lung cancer
This is the leading cause of cancer deaths in men, both in the United States and worldwide. Men's lifetime risk of developing it (for both smokers and nonsmokers) is 1 in 13.
- Depression and suicide
The suicide rate for men is 3.5 times higher than it is for women, with males accounting for seven out of 10 suicides in 2015. With depression comes a much higher risk of suicide, which is why it's so important for men to seek help for persistent depression.
Untreated diabetes in men can lead to erectile dysfunction and other urological problems, nerve damage (neuropathy), dehydration and damage to the eyes, kidneys and hearing. Men, after putting on weight, are more at risk for diabetes than are women. Additionally, men typically store fat differently than women, which increases their risk.
- Kidney disease
Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and smoking are just a few factors that increase the risk of chronic kidney disease, which can lead to complications including anemia, cardiovascular disease, decreased sex drive or erectile dysfunction, decreased immune response and kidney damage.
- High blood pressure
While common, it's not inevitable and can be prevented, delayed and treated. If ignored, it can lead to heart and kidney failure, vision problems and even blindness.
Stress, lack of physical activity and being overweight or obese increase the odds, as do genetics.
- High cholesterol
Highly determined by genetics, cholesterol levels can also be influenced by things like diet, activity and body weight. Cholesterol can be measured by a simple blood test. The risk increases with age and, left untreated, can lead to a greater risk of heart attack, stroke and peripheral artery disease.
- Prostate cancer
The most common cancer found in men and the second leading type of cancer death in men (following lung cancer). The good news is that it's treatable if found in its early stages; but the bad news is that often it shows no symptoms until it has spread to other parts of the body. Although older age increases the risk, younger men can get it, too.